Time to look at one of Disney’s most underrated animated features, Teacher’s Pet:
Remember the original Teacher’s Pet animated series? Yeah, probably not….it only lasted a couple of seasons and actually, this movie came out two years after the series ended:
The basic plot is pretty simple, a dog has a dream of becoming a boy one day, so much so that he dresses up as a boy and goes to the same school that his owner and his mother attend and Leonard, Spot’s owner, is the only one who knows that he’s doing this and the series is essentially the misadventures of these characters going through various adventures.
The original series was never as popular as Disney probably wanted it to be but regardless, they made a movie based off it and how does it fare up? Let’s take a look:
Teacher’s Pet is a 2004 American animated musical comedy film based on the television series of the same name; the film ends the central storyline of the series. Produced by Disney Television Animation and released theatrically on January 16, 2004, the film was a box office bomb but a critical success. The movie is dedicated to creator Gary Baseman’s dog, Hubcaps, who died while the film was in production.
Leonard is a 4th grader; his mother, Mrs. Mary Lou Helperman, is his teacher, and has been nominated for a teaching award. They plan a trip to Florida for the finals, but need to leave their dog, Spot, behind. Unknown to Mrs. Helperman, Spot has been masquerading as a boy, Scott, who is her star pupil. Spot wants nothing more than to be a real boy, and sees a way to this when mad scientist Ivan Krank appears on the Barry Anger show. Krank thinks he can turn animals into humans. Conveniently, his lab is right down the street from where the Helpermans are staying, so Spot, as Scott (and the rest of his family) convinces Mary Lou to take him along. Spot becomes a man, but discovers it’s not everything he ever dreamed of after all.
The film is essentially the last episode of the series, it’s literally set up as the series finale as the main plot finally gives us the inevitable purpose of the series.
And much to my surprise and most peoples’ surprise, this movie is actually really good, it’s not even really good, it’s pretty damn fantastic. There is so much to admire about this movie in so many ways.
First off, the animation in this gets a gigantic upgrade compared to the TV series. The original TV animation doesn’t look bad at all but you can tell that the animation in this movie is much smoother, more vibrant, more colorful, and has more movability to it than the TV series did.
Second, the music is really good in here, there’s a ton of really good catchy songs in this movie.
The comedy is really solid, the jokes are very good, and the homages and parodies of classic Disney movies is pitch perfect.
The voice work is great, Nathan Lane is perfectly cast as Spot and his chemistry with Shaun Fleming’s Leonard works really well, you’ve also got Kelsey Grammer as the bad guy, Ivan Krank, as well as Jay Thomas, Jerry Stiller, David Ogden Steirs, Debra Jo Rupp, Wallace Shawn, Paul Reubens and Megan Mulally in this movie too.
But the best aspect is the overall story and its’ element of surprise that it brings into it, the main focus of the movie is Spot finally becoming a human boy and he does…but not in the way you’d think, I will not spoil it for you because trust me, when you see what actually happens and how they explain it, it’s friggin’ hilarious.
The unfortunate thing is that I could see why Teacher’s Pet failed at the box office and it failed miserably financially, only made $6.5 million on a $10 million budget. For one thing, this was 2004 and as we’ve talked about before, 2D animation was pretty much dying out at the box office and 3D animation was taking over so Teacher’s Pet ended up being one of those box office casualties. Also, as I said before, the series never garnered that much of a following that many of the other Disney animated shows did. In fact, you could make the argument that Teacher’s Pet is the first animated movie based off a property that did not have a big following to it, another example would probably be Shaun The Sheep Movie. Lastly, it doesn’t help that this opened up in mid January where most family films don’t do well at all, it’s more than likely that Disney dumped this movie out because they knew it wouldn’t make money.
And it’s a shame because Teacher’s Pet really is a funny, funny movie, it certainly kicks the crap out of Disney’s big animated feature for that year, Home On The Range, that’s for damn sure. It’s got the laughs, it’s got the great animation, it’s got the great music, it’s got the great story, everything about it just works. Seek it out on DVD if you can and you won’t be disappointed.
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